Success never comes easy, hard work, ambition, and sheer determination contribute towards the end goal. Manifesting these qualities and much more is the effervescent fintech guru Tram Anh Nguyen. The co-founder of CFTE, Tram Anh, has a personal and professional journey worthy of Hollywood.

Her easy demeanor and self-less vision for millions of people make Nguyen stand apart in the crowd. In an industry like Finance and Fintech, which is often thought to be highly competitive, pragmatic, and devoid of emotions, Tran Anh’s sensitivity to the growing needs of people and the way to empower them, especially women, in order to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, led her to the start her entrepreneurial journey.

After a 15 years long successful career in finance, this French citizen of Vietnamese descent believes that to keep pace with technology, it is important to keep continuing education and training. The Centre for Finance, Technology, and Entrepreneurship aims to do just that!

The Voice of Woman has the absolute honor to present to its reader the inspiring story of Tram Anh Nguyen and the amazing work that she is doing through CFTE- which is one of the largest educational platforms for all things relating to digital finance and Fintech.

Questions with Tram Anh Nguyen

To learn more about Tram Anh Nguyen and her exciting work in the field of Fintech, read on ahead!

What made you shift from a career in traditional finance to Fintech?

I am the co-founder of CFTE, the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship. I am French of Vietnamese origin, and I started my career in New York on the trading floor of Standard Chartered Bank. After New York, I joined Dresdner Kleinwort Benson in London, still in the trading room with a role in institutional sales.

I then decided to join UBS Wealth Management where I was in charge of investments for clients in Asia. After that, I made my first move and set up on my own. In 2014, when leaving the world of traditional finance after 15 years, I realized that we were not at all prepared for tomorrow’s world. Technology is having an impact on finance, but very few people are aware of it. We have launched CFTE to help individuals to acquire skills in digital finance to look for opportunities in the Future of Finance and Fintech.

I co-founded CFTE with Huy Nguyen Trieu, which is a new type of university that uses online learning to teach professionals about technology in finance and Fintech. Built on the idea of change, we believe emerging technologies and innovation are giving birth to a new era of finance, one that can have a positive impact on the lives of billions.

We want to use the power of education to train a whole generation of finance professionals to adapt to a world of technology-driven finance and to give them the skills to thrive in this period of change, this is to make sure that no one is left behind.

But although many people are afraid of change and this new type of change, for example, being replaced by robots, by artificial intelligence, making wrong decisions, I believe that these new changes can be very beneficial if we learn and understand them.

The global economy is hit severely during this Pandemic. What would you like to say about this?

In the past few months, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of all industries, and, in particular, finance. Adapting to our digital world is now, therefore, more critical than ever, as we have seen things change swiftly.

Tram Anh Nguyen
Tram Anh Nguyen

With millions now finding themselves with inadequate skills, it is our purpose at the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CFTE) to help people and organisations upskill to make their next move.

At the same time, that digitalisation is happening, the health crisis is morphing into a social one with unemployment rising fast. I see the risk of having a large part of a population out of work, and with outdated skills preventing them from finding a new job, is therefore real.

Inequality is increasing even more between people.  We are seeing huge differences between countries, companies, and people. This inequality is the challenge of the transformation. And as a result, the knowledge gap is widening. It’s widening between organisations, between industries.

But most importantly, it’s widening among people. How can we upskill millions for the future of work? How can you ensure you are future-proving yourself? That’s what I am spending my time to work on. We hope we can help to bring education in Finance, Technology and Fintech in many other countries and including in India.

The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Why is it so?

Further inequality. We see that the world is transforming and it is just accelerating and not stopping. Without the use of digital, most people can’t live properly. However, people that don’t have access to good tools are leading to the creation of a bigger gap between those who have access to technology, the rich from those who don’t.

This transformation leads to a serious problem, which is that the knowledge gap is widening at the same time. It’s widening among people. So as this technological transformation is accelerating, some organisations are being left behind. And people are being left behind, with skills and knowledge which are outdated.

You have a diploma in Feng Shui, how do you channelise this traditional practice in your

Feng Shui is all about the study of the environment and the quality of the Qi that surrounds. I used to practice Feng Shui quite a bit, today my time is limited so I practice for my home and my office.

You are of Vietnamese origin but have been raised in France and resided in New York and London, how have these myriad experiences contributed towards your perspective for life?

I am French with the origins from Vietnam. My parents came to France as immigrants, who had lost their livelihood in Vietnam. I came to life in France and I grew up with the sense of rebuilding and overcoming obstacles.

Life is about building and it’s an important part of me and my family heritage. I feel very strongly about learning and embracing challenges. Our world has completely changed since COVID-19 and we are all experiencing something which we’ve never seen before.

45 years ago today in 1975, right before the communist invasion and Fall of Saigon, my family only had a few hours to gather some belongings prior to fleeing our homeland, Vietnam.

While our next destination was unknown, it was clear that staying put was not an option. Hope was on the horizon, and we had to move and move quickly.

Faced with limited options, we were forced to separate and take different routes – by sea and by air. Imagine the pressure on those who had to make split-second family decisions that may have resulted in the difference between freedom and captivity, or even life and death.

It was truly a time of extreme uncertainty and insecurity, but we were blessed to have an international team of guardians behind us. My family were given passage through Singapore, the Philippines, and Guam guided by the Red Cross who also managed to reunite our family in Camp Pendleton.

While my dad was with my grandma and our entire family was very fortunate to have all made to this journey as boat people,  we learned that the majority of our fellow refugees did not. The United Nations estimates that ~250,000 Vietnamese boat people perished at sea from ‘75 to ‘86. They paid the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom.

At the time, I was not born yet. I was born a year later. My life has been brought with all this in mind. My dad was the last to embark with my grandma on a boat with aunts and uncles and cousins. My mom was sent to France a month before the fall of Saigon. They met only after a couple of months and in France, which is my country where I am born and proud to be a French citizen also.  

The second crisis where I had to face the hardest was 9/11. I was one of the victims of 9/11 when I went through a very similar journey. On the 11th of September 2001, my life changed forever. By then, I had been working in New York for two years and I was working at the World Trade Center. Our apartment was in front of the Twin Towers and we could see them there from our windows.

On that day, it all started as a normal day, it was a sunny day. I walked to the office to be there at seven. Two hours later, the first plane hit the Twin Tower, the building with my colleagues. We had no idea what was happening. We thought it was an earthquake. I walked down the stairs and then the second plane hit the second tower. Panic was filling the city. Everything started crawling down.

I ran, we all ran away from the towers, there was dust everywhere, we couldn’t breathe, we were trying to go north as quickly as possible. As things settled down, I didn’t know what to do. The mobile phones network didn’t work anymore, my husband was in Paris, and I couldn’t go back to my apartment. I was homeless, I was lost, and I didn’t know what to do.

But it wasn’t just me, it was the same for all my colleagues and millions of New Yorkers, and on the following days, in the following months, we rebuilt ourselves and we were glad to be alive.

The hardest is this year when my husband and I both caught the coronavirus in our home and not sure what we could do to help the millions of people out there. We wrote a blog to help.

As I reflect on the 3 periods in history and my life, I can’t help but identify a few parallels to the challenges we are currently experiencing during this global pandemic where many people feel vulnerable and hopeless. In this time of volatility and unrest, we need to be there for each other more than ever, be collaborative, be open to new things.

I am a mum of 3 girls and I would like them to not be stressed to change, to adapt to change. This is what I tell my team as well: don’t be afraid of change, change is sometimes good to grow and progress. 

What according to you, are the challenges that women face in the Fintech industry?

Statistically, few women in fintech have reached their full career potential, when compared to the majority of men we see at leadership levels across the industry.

Tram Anh Nguyen
Tram Anh Nguyen

Women face many challenges- lack of women role models, unconscious biases, shortage of mentors and sponsors, a regulatory environment that often doesn’t recognize gender wage gap concerns, and often a lack of confidence in their abilities.  We need to work at many levels to address these challenges.

What are the 3 significant pillars for being a successful entrepreneur?

The three significant pillars of being a successful entrepreneur are: 

  • Firstly, identifying your unique strengths and skills, be resilient.
  • Secondly, always be willing to learn and to grow as you grow your startup.
  • And thirdly, be authentic, believe in you, and have your strong voice.

Please share a message for our readers through the Voice of Woman

So, if there is a message that I want to leave you with today, women, the world is a world that is full of opportunities. There are many online education tools to help anyone to learn, learn about all the things that were not accessible before is today

This year is a year of being reborn and reset for many people. I would encourage everyone to start building your knowledge, learn and try new things. Be 20, 30 or 50 years old, please don’t be afraid to learn. Don’t be afraid of change but embrace it. You know, it’s a new beginning and it can be hard. Try, try, try. You can and you will. Together, we can build a better future, it starts with you.

Change is essential. I think that education and learning are the best ways to adapt to this new period of disruption. We encourage not only professionals but also engineers, technologists, entrepreneurs and consultants to learn about digital finance. Women are also keen to be part of this global community. The opportunities are incredible but it is necessary to understand.

CFTE currently retrains people of all ages and backgrounds. We want to provide these participants with an international perspective of the fast-growing Fintech sector.

We work with some of the most prestigious universities, from Imperial College in London to Hong Kong University, with EDHEC Master in Finance, with Ngee Ann University in Singapore where we have created “The AI in Finance” course online together with participants from around the world who are learning about AI in finance and its applications.